Family afflicted by botulism not covered by ACC

A family that was struck down by botulism after eating wild boar last month is facing a massive medical bill, and their friends say they need help from the Government.

ACC has told them they don't qualify for compensation, but they says they deserve to be treated just like any other accident victim.

Subi Babu, her husband, Shibu Kochummen, and his mother, Alekutty Daniel, have been slowly recovering from botulism that struck a month ago after they ate wild boar.

Friend Joji Verghese says at first all three were paralysed and unable to speak, but they're now in rehab.

"Shibu can walk with the help of a walker, very slow steps, same with the grandmum Mrs Daniel. Subi still needs a lot of help getting around."

They have no memory of what happened the night they all fell ill a month ago. Since then their children, seven-year-old Abiya and one-year-old Johana, have been looked after by relatives.

"As soon as they started coming around that's the first question they asked," said Mr Verghese.

"'Where are my children? How are they doing?' immediately followed by, 'How long have we been out? What's happened to us?' and 'What's going to happen from here?'"

Officials are yet to confirm botulism was responsible, but it's the only thing they're testing for and the family is responding to anti-toxins for botulism.

Confirmation will take months but will also present a problem for the family. An ACC official has told them they won't be eligible for accident compensation. 

"He made a statement that went botulism is not covered under ACC," said Mr Verghese.

That puts the family in the same boat as the victims of the Havelock North water contamination crisis because the ingestion or inhalation of bacterium is not considered an accident unless it is the result of a criminal act.

"So this is definitely an accident and the Accident Compensation Corporation does not want to help out," said Mr Verghese.

New ACC Minister Iain Lees-Galloway released a statement to Newshub saying he can't comment on individual cases for privacy reasons. However, he is open to examining the issues raised in this and similar cases.

"Anyone could be driving down the road breaking speed limits and if they meet an accident it's covered under ACC, but the accidental consumption of a bacterium is not covered under ACC, so who made these laws?," said Mr Varghese.

Abiya and Johana fly back to Kerala in India on Sunday, where they'll be looked after by relatives, but it's hoped they'll be able to return when their parents have recovered.

The family is facing a six-figure bill just for the grandmother's care because she's not a New Zealand citizen, and while there is a Givealittle appeal so far it has only raised $16,000.